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A collection of good reading onlineHere are some of the great reads I discovered this week:

How to Disagree Better about COVID-19, Conspiracy Theories, and Pretty Much Everything Else in Life.

The Cure for a Lack of Fruit in Our Christian Lives, HT to Challies.

5 Ways Christians are Getting Swept into a Secular Worldview in This Cultural Moment. HT to Proclaim and Defend.

The American Soviet Mentality, HT to Challies. I hadn’t made the connection between today’s cancel culture and what they used to do in the Soviet Union, but now that I’ve read this, the similarities are striking and scary.

How to Bear Up Under Your Burdens.

Getting Practical: How to Host a Middle Eastern Friend, HT to Challies. These are useful tips if you have the opportunity to host someone from the Middle East.

11 Transcendent Moments of Movie Music. “Wordless music in a film often speaks more to us than all the words of the script. Why? I think it’s because music in general is a language with mysterious communicative potential.” I enjoyed this a lot. I haven’t seen all the movies listed here, but would like to check out some of them now. And with that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite pieces:

Laudable Linkage

Welcome to another gathering of great reads discovered this week:

Downstream. Love this analogy: “A river reaches places which its source never knows.”

If Kids Don’t Understand Why Miracles Don’t Discredit the Bible, Their Faith Will Be Easily Crushed, HT to Challies. “Miracle accounts simply don’t automatically discredit the Bible. Anyone who thinks they do hasn’t thought critically about the subject. Please help your kids understand this so they’re prepared the next time someone tries to make them feel like a fool by making simplistic appeals to ‘common sense.’”

Musical Choices–Objective Subjectivity. What music is appropriate for Christians has been the subject of multiple debates for years. But I think we can agree that music (not just words) which appeals to the flesh would fall on the wrong side for us. And we have to be honest about that appeal: as is shown here, if even secular musicians apply words like “raunchy” and “angry” to their music, how can we deny those elements are there?

Praying for Your Missionary’s Emotional and Mental Health. We pray for physical safety, but missionaries need help in other areas, too.

Josh Harris releases a statement on his book I Kissed Dating Good-bye. HT to Challies. I’m glad to see this. We gleaned some good principles from the book but formed our own philosophy which disagreed in parts with his.

The Literary Christmas Reading Challenge runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31.

If you like Christian Fiction and/or scavenger hunts, the annual Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt starts here, with an opportunity to win “25 books as well as Amazon gift cards, an iPad and more!” Plus most of the individual authors are hosting giveaways on their own sites as well.

And, finally, a couple of thoughts found on Pinterest:

Happy Saturday!

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I’ve been mostly absent from the blog this week. It’s rare for me not to do a Friday’s Fave Five, even if I don’t post anything else. But it has been a busy week: card-making and present-shopping and wrapping for a baby shower and my oldest son’s upcoming birthday, house-cleaning for my son’s visit from out of state, buying tons of food for family get-togethers, etc, etc. It’s amazing what you can done when you’re not blogging! 🙂 I am not sure how much I will be online the next week. My oldest son is here, my husband is off, we’ll have more time with the whole family. But, in the past when I have thought I would not be posting much, I have been surprised. Our whole family likes our computer time, so we’ll see.

Meanwhile, I have collected in odd moments online the last week some thought-provoking, helpful reads I wanted to share with you.

Poor Interpretation Lets Us “Believe” the Bible While Denying What It Actually Say, HT to Challies. “Historically, theological liberals denied Scripture, and everyone knew where they stood. But today many so-called evangelicals affirm their belief in Scripture, while attributing meanings to biblical texts that in fact deny what Scripture really says. Hence they ‘believe every word of the Bible’ while actually embracing (and teaching) beliefs that utterly contradict it.”

Grace Comes With Refills.

Love Is Not a Feeling.

Praying the Words of Jesus for Your Teen.

Pants on Fire. The folly of the “I don’t know whether this is true or not; but I just wanted to get it out there” type of post.

Are We All “Harmless Torturers” Now? HT to Challies. “When we think of the savagery of social media, we often think of awful individual behavior…Harmless Torturers never go that far; we just like, retweet and add the occasional clever remark. But there are millions of us, and we’re all turning the dial.”

Why Getting Lost in a Book is So Good for You, HT to Linda.

Finally, you might be blessed by this video even if you don’t know Ron and Shelly Hamilton (of Majesty Music, aka Patch the Pirate and Sissy Seagull) and Shelly’s parents, Frank and Flora Jean Garlock. I had no idea the Garlocks were in this situation or that Ron had been diagnosed with dementia. This is not only an update of how they are doing, but a sweet testimony of a man caring for his wife.

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I found a lot of good reads the last week or so:

On Blind Faith and God.

Why You Desperately Need the Holy Spirit , HT to Challies.

The Power of De-Conversion Stories: How Jen Hatmaker is Trying to Change Minds About the Bible, HT to Challies.

Who Is the God of Mormonism?, HT to Challies.“One thing you’ll discover as you’re talking with your Mormon (LDS) friends is that though we use the same terms, we often mean very different things. Mormons have different definitions of Gospel, repentance, salvation, grace, Hell, and nearly every term you’ll be using in your conversation.”

5 Things That People Who Are Dying Want You to Know, by Kerry Egan, HT to Lisa.

How to Choose Worship Songs. Yes, to all the points mentioned here.

My Son, Withhold Judgment, HT to Challies.There are some times we need to act quickly; there are other times to realize we don’t know all the facts and need to wait.

How Do I Fight Pride When Competing in School, Business, and Sports? HT to True Woman.  “If we are better in some subject than someone else, God made us better. And his reasons for doing so are not pride and boasting and elitism. His reason for doing so is that we might use our competencies for the good of others.”

If God Doesn’t Heal You, HT to True Woman. “Although God can heal us, we must never presume that he must.”

The Why of Encouragement.

Why Do I Believe in Credobaptism, HT to Challies.

Why Young Christians Need Old Books, HT to True Woman.

In Defense of Evangelicals Who Support Trump, HT to Proclaim and Defend. Interesting, whichever side you’re on. Not written by an evangelical but by a Jew who acknowledges that “It is usually easier for an outsider to defend a person or a group that is attacked than for the person or group.” As he also says, “Character is a complex issue.” I’m not willing to say it’s not a factor at all – far from it, and I don’t think he’s saying that, either – but it’s true that some people with awful personal lives can be good leaders. But if we acknowledge that on one side of the ballot, we need to concede it for the other as well.

Growing Old Graciously, HT to Challies.”I don’t know everything, but what I do know, I can share.”

The Benefits of Listening to the Elderly, HT to Challies. “Why might the Lord, in his grace, cause the aged to repeat themselves as they do? What is the Lord showing us through it? Rather than rolling our eyes or thinking ‘Here goes Grandma again,’ what can be gained from these times?”

When I Give a Book.

On Writing Books and Getting Published, HT to Challies.

The Incredible “Mehness” Of Social Media, HT to Challies. An aspect we don’t often think of. Even if much of what we do there is harmless or even interesting, how does that impact our everyday lives and responsibilities? Do those things impact those with whom we have to do or take our attention away from them?

Ideas For Things to Do On a Snow Day, HT to Story Warren.

And in the “Seriously?” category: There’s a Reason using a Period In a Text Makes You Sound Angry, HT to Lisa. I never knew this was an issue – and it shouldn’t be. A period is just the end of a sentence, not the end of a conversation or an indicator of anger, disinterest, or insincerity.

Hope you have a fine Saturday!

(Links do not imply 100% endorsement.)

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I have kind of a longish list today, but found all of these noteworthy or thought-provoking in some way. Hope you find something you like!

Where Is God in a Mass Shooting? HT to True Woman.

Letter to a Church Member (Or a Letter to Myself). “Your church is here, not to give you a good self-image, but to give you a true self-image.”

Exegesis Without Embarrassment, HT to Challies. The first of a series dealing with why God would command the destruction of the Canaanites.

Ten Things You Should Know About Temptation, HT to Challies.

God Is With You in Your Panic Attack.

Let’s Get Real About Women’s Discipleship, HT toChallies. “If Instagram is any clue, most Christian women think discipleship is limited to hosting thoughtfully curated Bible studies in tasteful homes where shrieking children and dirty dishes don’t exist. This glossy ideal sits like a yoke on many women’s shoulders rather than spurring them onward in Christ’s Great Commission.”

The Holiness of Small Things.

Worship Isn’t About Feelings, HT to Challies. “Sometimes I serve my neighbor out of obedience to Christ, and love for Christ follows. Sometimes I am filled with love for Christ, such that I look for an opportunity serve my neighbor.

When You Don’t Need God’s Guidance, HT to True Woman. “We don’t need to seek guidance where guidance has already been revealed in Scripture. How easy it is to convince ourselves we’re “confused” about what we should do when we’re reluctant to do what we know is right. It helps us feel better to label questions of morality “complicated” when they require us to pick up a cross or suffer rejection. The serpent’s ancient whisper—Did God really say?—trips off the tongue when God’s commands are costly.”

Heroes, Hagiography, and Villainy. I’ve been thinking for some time now about writing a post concerning flawed heroes. This says some of the things I have been thinking.

Four Reasons to Read Slowly. “The Information Age isn’t slowing us down, but subtly and constantly pressuring us to speed up. As we browse, surf, and scroll, we’re training ourselves to quickly see new facts and then look for the next figures, rather than feel the weight of what we read.”

Advice for Reading the Bible when a learning disability makes it hard.

Benny Hinn Is My Uncle, But Prosperity Preaching Isn’t For Me.

Theological imagination.

I Stopped Praising My Kids for a Week: This Is What I Learned, HT to Story Warren.

Some years ago I was wandering around the local library’s video collection looking for something to watch and saw the 10th anniversary production of Les Miserables. I decided to get it and see what all the fuss was about – and that started a love affair with the musical and then the book. Since the particular singers there were the first I heard, and though I have seen some wonderful clips of a variety of singers singing some of the songs, this cast will always embody the characters for me. Recently I stumbled across this video of Philip Quast, who played Inspector Javert, telling how he approached one of the solos. I had no idea such thought and intention was involved behind every word. In the song he’s discussing, Javert has just had an encounter with ValJean, the man he has been trailing all his adult life. ValJean has just carried a wounded Marius through the sewer system when he runs into Javert and begs Javert to let him see Marius to safety. Previously ValJean had held Javert’s life in his hands, and let him go. Javert can’t compute this: he upholds righteousness and The Law, and in his mind, once you’ve fallen, there is no mercy or grace. “Once a con, always a con” is his mindset. So how can it be that this man no longer acts like a con and even shows mercy and compassion?  I’ll post the video of this song from the musical after this interview:

A couple of other things I love about this: Javert’s previous solo was about the comfort he found in the stars as “sentinels” of God’s order in the world. But here, “the stars are black and cold.” Also, there is so much parallelism between this song and Valjeans’s soliloquy when when the bishop shows him an undeserved kindness: the same tune there and here, similar phrasing about “allowing this man” to have an influence, an offer of freedom, “I am reaching, but I fall…,” escaping the world of Jean ValJean, but in two different ways. Although ValJean had to wrestle with it, he accepted the bishop’s grace. Javert either thought he didn’t need it, since he was always in the right in his own eyes, or he couldn’t accept it from this man. When his entire worldview was turned on its ear, instead of adjusting, he could only escape. Grace accepted saves and changes a person. Grace rejected leaves one out in the cold darkness.



Tune My Heart to Sing Your Grace

I’ve always wanted to do a study of music in the Bible – not so much via concordance, but as I go through my usual reading the Bible through, noting what all it has to say about music in context. There are so many rich references to music there: music touches most of us deep in our souls, and it’s meant to! Some day I will.

But  our substitute Sunday School teacher has been going through Isaiah 12 the last couple of weeks. Last week centered mostly on verse 2:

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.

I have always loved that not only is He our salvation, He is also our strength; and He doesn’t just give us “grin and bear it” strength, He is also our song.

This week the lesson went on to the rest of the chapter, and one subset of the lesson included verse 5:

Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.

Then the teacher shared just a few verses indicating what we’re to sing about. I failed to take notes, but when I had a chance I looked up some of the verses in a concordance. Here is what I found just in the psalms that we can sing about:

God’s righteousness: I will praise the Lord according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high. Psalm 7:17.

His doings: Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings. Psalm9:11.

His bountiful dealings with us: I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13:6.

His power:  Be thou exalted, Lord, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power. Psalm 21:13.

His holiness: Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. Psalm 30:4.

His praises: Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding. Psalm 47:6-7.

His righteousness in forgiveness: Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. Psalm 51:14.

His mercy: But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble. Psalm 59:16. I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 89:1.

His Name: Sing forth the honour of his name: make his praise glorious. Psalm 66:2.

His righteous judgment: O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Psalm 67:4.

His truth: I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel. Psalm 71:22.

His wondrous works: Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works. Psalm 105:2.

What He has done for us: When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Psalm 126: 1-3.

There are so many other aspects of music in the Bible: where people sang (from “the congregation of the saints” [Psalm 149:1] to our own beds [Psalm 149:5]), to whom they sang, situations in which they sang.

Just this brief study makes me want to burst into song!

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of God’s redeeming love.

Oh that day when freed from sinning
I shall see Thy lovely face
Full arrayed in blood-washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry
Bring Thy promises to pass
For I know Thy pow’r will keep me
Till I’m home with Thee at last.

~ Robert Robinson

Related posts:

“Special” Music in the Church
Songs in the Night

(Sharing With Literary Musing Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Faith on Fire)


Laudable Linkage

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been able to share interesting reads I have come across, so here we go!

Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit.

Michael J. Kruger has been posting a series called “Taking Back Christianese,” where he discusses common phrases in Christendom that may have some merit but may also be misinterpreted or misrepresented. I particularly enjoyed “God Is Always Pleased With You” and “The Christian Life Is All About Being Transparent and Vulnerable.” I think the HT for sending me to these goes to Challies – I forgot to note it.

Lay Aside the Weight of Irritability. Ouch! One of my besetting sins…

STOP! Read This Before You Post Another RIP on Social Media. It’s so easy to share news so quickly, but we have to stop and ask ourselves if it’s our news to share. It can cause problems and hurt deeply if something is whisked through social media before the family involved has even had time to contact the rest of the family and close friends.

How to Help Your Children Walk Away. It’s kind of a sad truth that part of our training of our children is training them to ultimately go away from us. It’s good and right that they will ultimately live on their own, and it’s exciting to see how God leads, but there is a wistfulness about it for moms as well. This is about some of those smaller times apart as training along the way.

Does a Husband Have the Authority? deals with taking a husband’s authority in the home way farther than the Bible instructs.

Rosaria Butterfield: No Free Passes. Interesting interview about life since the publication of her book, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, particularly dealing with protesters when she speaks at colleges.

Self Publishing a Book? Read This Strong Warning.

And finally, I am not a big fan of the organ, though an occasional Bach suite on an old pipe organ that I can watch, and not just listen to, hits the spot. This isn’t a pipe organ, but it’s mesmerizing. As the Story Warren said, the organ is a ” full-body contact instrument.” I can’t fathom being coordinated enough to do this:

Happy Saturday!

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Here are some noteworthy reads from the last couple of weeks:

Shine Like Stars: Give and Rejoice {Philippians 2:17-18}. What it means for our lives to be poured like like a drink offering. Hit me right where and when I needed it.

10 Things We Don’t Want Our Kids to Learn From Church.

What these ladies did to turn a friend’s day around, and what they received in return. Loved this!

Why Can’t Christians Intelligently Discuss Current Events. “I suspect that by yelling so loudly about nearly everything, we’re obscuring the big thing (Matt. 12:36).”

Responding to the Increasingly Short Shelf-Life of Worship songs, HT to Challies. Songleaders/music pastors/worship leaders have an abundance of songs to choose from, and being able to project the words for all to see enables us to sing more than just what’s in the hymnbook. That’s good in many ways but complicates things in other ways. Though this was written to song leaders and such, it helped me to see what  big job it is to choose songs from the multitude we have available. I especially appreciated his caveat that some songs are for just a season. It used to bother me that we heard some songs often for a while and then not at all – kind of like a current “hit” – but then I realized that even the older hymn-writers wrote many songs that we know nothing about now, so that must have happened then, too.

This is a  neat overview of the Bible for kids, showing how it all points to Christ:

Have a good weekend!

“Special” Music in the Church


Let me say at the outset that I know some people object to the term “special music” in church, meaning songs that are performed by instrumentalists or sung as solos or groups as opposed to congregational singing, because it sounds like we’re elevating that type of music above congregational singing. In the order of service in our own church bulletin, a “special” is listed as “Ministry in music,” and that’s perfect. But if I used that phrase as a blog title, it would sound like I was writing about the whole panorama of music in the life of a church, and I am not doing that. I just wanted to share a few thoughts on this particular aspect of church music.

These thoughts were spurred some time ago by an article I saw (which I can’t find now) which advised that one way to encourage more and better congregational singing was to deemphasize the special music. I don’t know how many people saw that particular article, but it seems like that is the current trend, and I think it is a sad one, for reasons I’ll get into in a moment. We always have such a tendency to be unbalanced in one direction or another, and I think to scrap or at least downplay personal ministry in music creates a loss for the church, a loss for the musicians and their gifts as well as for the hearers who would be ministered to.

The writer of the article in question suggested that one reason people weren’t singing as well as they could congregationally was that having worship leaders and a band on stage made it seem more like they were “the professionals” and everyone else was just there primarily to listen and maybe to sing along occasionally. I have never experienced a set-up like that personally; the churches we have attended have been more traditional, with a songleader behind the pulpit and a choir behind him, and a few instrumentalists to one side. I am not knocking the other style, but I can see the point that if it is set up more like a concert, the audience will be more likely to listen than to participate. However, I really don’t think that’s the problem in most churches.

Some think that when we listen to others “perform” a spiritual song, we’re more likely to enjoy the performance rather than be ministered to by the words. And I do admit that is a danger. But I don’t think it is a reason to deemphasize performed hymns and spiritual songs. I can get distracted by how well I like a song or its melody even in congregational singing, so I think that’s largely a matter of training our minds and taking “every thought captive.” I don’t think it is wrong to enjoy the music, the harmony, the performance aspect of it, but we need to let that enhance the message rather than become the main point.

Some want to downplay “special” music in church because they feel congregational singing is more participatory, whereas with special music we’re just listening. But I disagree: listening is participating if done right. (And besides that, we don’t apply the same logic to the preaching, which is done by one and listened to by everyone else.) I think we need to train our families and ourselves to concentrate, to pay attention to the words especially, not to talk or fidget or otherwise distract ourselves and others during the performance. Part of that is just consideration and respect for those performing, but another part of it is to enhance our own ability to receive the song’s message.

For me personally, the special music, whether an offertory, solo, or ensemble, is the most worshipful part of the church service. (By the way, I don’t believe the musical segment of a service is the only time where worship takes place: worship should be what we do in every part of the service.) I do enjoy congregational singing very much, but I do get more distracted by my own voice, by the voices of those around me, by wondering when we’re going to get to sit down because my knees are killing me, by what I need to do to start dinner, etc. That is my own problem, and I work on it constantly. Our church does display the words to the songs we’re singing, and that helps immensely, but that time is the hardest time in the whole service for me to keep my mind on what I am doing. During special music, however, I’m all in and focused without really trying to be.

Besides being able to focus better personally, I think special music has value in other ways as well. Some people are gifted vocally or in ways of expressing what they are singing so that we can get more of the nuance of a song than when we’re just barreling through it with everyone else. And though I have a wealth of recorded Christian music I can listen to any time, and do often, it means more to hear someone I know personally who is dealing with a chronic illness sing, “Day by day and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here,” or someone who recently lost her husband sing about the New Jerusalem, or a sweet couple who have walked with the Lord for decades together singing about Him whom their souls love, or someone undergoing a longstanding trial singing:

What if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

(“Blessings” by Laura Story)

I can and have been ministered to through music sung by someone I don’t know, but when I know the people and observe how they walk with the Lord, that adds a valuable layer of ministry to a church.

The article I mentioned also proposed that singers and musicians should take it down a notch and not sound so professional so as not to discourage those of us with more average voices to sing out. But Psalm 33:1-3 talks about playing music skilfully. Those who sing and play need to have some skill in doing so (and that is another reason I enjoy it: I can sing and praise in my own spirit vicariously through them, since I don’t have the skills they do.) I don’t think special music has to sound “professional”: it can be very simple. But it is not wrong for it to sound professional, either. Different people have different skill levels, and I can enjoy a variety of them just as I enjoy reading from writers at various levels of writing skill or listening to preaching from men whose style or gifts vary. A child’s first piano offertory or a simple solo with a guitar can minister just as much as a full scale performance of Handel’s Messiah, and I like them all in different ways.

Not long after I came across the article I mentioned, I came to Chronicles in my Bible reading. Among the many people with various specific functions in the temple were musicians and singers.

I Chronicles 16:4-7: Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the Lord, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel. Asaph was the chief, and second to him were Zechariah, Jeiel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-edom, and Jeiel, who were to play harps and lyres; Asaph was to sound the cymbals, and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God. Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the Lord by Asaph and his brothers.

I Chronicles 16:41-42: With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever. Heman and Jeduthun had trumpets and cymbals for the music and instruments for sacred song.

I Chronicles 25 gives great detail about David appointing different people for different musical functions. One of the most interesting verses to me is I Chronicles 25:1: “Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals.” A former pastor used to say that even instrumental music was a form of prophecy.

When the ark was brought into the temple,

all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord), and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud,  so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God. II Chronicles 5:12-14.

“Special” music was also performed at the dedication of the temple, before the army, at the crowning of a king, when Hezekiah reestablished worship in the temple, at the restoration of the Passover,  at the Passover in Josiah’s time, when the foundation for the temple was laid again in Ezra’s time. But special or performed music wasn’t just for special occasions:  II Chronicles 8:14 says  “According to the ruling of David his father, he appointed the divisions of the priests for their service, and the Levites for their offices of praise and ministry before the priests as the duty of each day required.” Singers are mentioned multiple times from Chronicles to Nehemiah: Ezra 2: 65 says they were male and female.

Then of course the Psalms are themselves songs and mention music throughout. Whether they were song congregationally or by the temple musicians, or both, I don’t know. Now I am in Isaiah: I am not sure whether I’ll find references to singing in the prophets, as their focus and purpose is different.

That is all Old Testament: what about the New? I’ll look for specific references when I come to it in my reading, but two passages there come to mind. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” I think that can apply to both congregational and performed music. I Corinthians 14:6 says, “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.” The ESV has “hymn” in place of “psalm.”

I think songleaders and preachers can enhance the performed music of a church by emphasizing the message of it just before or after the person or people sing. If there is one thing I could say to preachers everywhere on this topic: please don’t joke just after someone has ministered in song, especially about that person. I’m not against laughter, I love to laugh as much as the next person, I know the Lord loves a merry heart, but joking just after someone sings is one of the quickest ways to quench whatever ministry their testimony in song could have had.

Instead of downplaying ministry in musical performance, I think songleaders can enhance congregational singing in a number of other ways: reminding us to sing as unto the Lord and what the Bible says about singing or commenting on something the song teaches (not long: a little sermon before each song or each stanza can dull its effect). Please, however, don’t do what I have heard often through the years and say something like, “Are you a Christian? Do you love the Lord? Then please tell your face!” or “If you could see the view from here, you’d be really depressed. Smile!” That’s basically saying, “Paste a smile on so you look better,” an emphasis on the outer rather than the inner man and not conducive to worship. How much better to encourage better singing by encouraging worship of the one we’re singing about and thinking about the message of the song.

Please understand that I am not trying to exalt “special” or performed music above congregational singing because I have emphasized it here: I’m just asking that we don’t discourage or downplay special music in our efforts to encourage congregational singing. Both have vital places in our worship: both can be great tools the Lord can use to minister to our hearts.

Luther on Music

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This may seem totally random (this blog is called Stray Thoughts after all 🙂 ), but I came across a quote from Martin Luther about music, and that got me searching for what else he might have to say about music. I found these quotes but couldn’t find their source – if anyone knows, please do enlighten me.

Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.

Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.

My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.

You will find that from the beginning of the world [music] has been instilled and implanted in all creatures, individually and collectively. For nothing is without sound or harmony… Music is a gift and largesse of God, not a human gift. Praise through word and music is a sermon in sound.”

This was balm to my own heart as music minsters to me in a unique way. My husband and I have had many discussions about music in church. He prefers congregational singing, partly because he feels like he is participating. I enjoy congregational singing most of the time, but I have a hard time keeping my mind on the words. I “feel” (I hate to use that word but can’t think of a better one) more worshipful when listening to someone minister in music (what we sometimes call “special music,” but some object to that term). Arrangements for an individual or small group usually allow for more expressiveness in style than a congregational song, and the musician’s giftedness can enhance the message. For some reason I can fully focus on a song that someone else is singing or playing better than I can when I’m singing with others.

But either venue can and does glorify God and and ministers to our own hearts in the meantime. I am thankful to God for it and for those who minister in that way.

See also:
Songs in the Night
The Hidden Art of Homemaking on Music.
Sing! Sing a Song